AGENDA THE

‘AC­CESS’ ISN’T A KEY TO TRUTH, OFTEN IT IS A BUFFER AGAINST IT

GQ (Australia) - - FEEDBACK - BY PAUL MURRAY

There’s one word that stands be­tween peo­ple know­ing the truth about vir­tu­ally all ar­eas of life – ‘ac­cess’. This is the abil­ity of the me­dia to stay on the in­side of a story by be­ing able to talk to the pow­er­ful. But it often comes with a heavy cost. One where there’s an en­tire in­dus­try that en­forces the rules of the game. A game from which the reader, viewer or lis­tener often gets re­moved. In­creas­ingly it is this ‘ac­cess’ that gov­erns so much of what you see in the me­dia and is a big rea­son be­hind what you don’t. They used to say a re­porter is only as good as their con­tact book; a ref­er­ence to who they knew and their abil­ity to get the in­side word on a story. Now there are plenty of old-school re­porters who still know the peo­ple they re­port on per­son­ally. But the next gen­er­a­tion isn’t as well con­nected. They have put more time into get­ting to know the gate­keeper. ‘PR’, ‘ Me­dia Li­ai­son’, ‘Ad­vi­sor’, ‘ Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Pro­fes­sional’ – go­ing by many names, they’e skilled and often nice peo­ple. But all be­come an al­most im­pen­e­tra­ble bar­rier be­tween the me­dia and what they are try­ing to write or film or talk about. Politi­cians love the buffer; it means they are rarely caught off guard in an in­ter­view. There is a group of peo­ple to han­dle not just me­dia re­quests for com­ment on the day’s news, but dozens of peo­ple who use ‘ac­cess’ to string the me­dia along. A year ago, I was told by one of them if I was nicer to their min­is­ter on TV then he would give me an in­ter­view. We never spoke again and suf­fice to say my ed­i­to­ri­als didn’t change. For a real democ­racy to work, you need to believe that there are peo­ple who ask hard ques­tions and make pow­er­ful peo­ple feel un­com­fort­able, hold­ing them to ac­count for their in­con­sis­ten­cies and the con­se­quences of the de­ci­sions they make. The he­roes of the mod­ern me­dia aren’t the ones with the big­gest Twit­ter fol­low­ing, or who pop up on TV all the time to trump their own ‘ex­clu­sives’. The peo­ple I look up to are the re­porters who roam freely with no fixed beat. They are not full-time sports, po­lit­i­cal or busi­ness re­porters. They bring fresh eyes to a sit­u­a­tion be­cause they don’t need the gate­keeper and couldn’t care less what the com­pany, politi­cian, ath­lete or sub­ject of their fo­cus thinks of their story. Lit­tle will pre­vent them from seek­ing out the truth. And they cer­tainly won’t be con­cerned with its pos­si­ble reper­cus­sions. One of the most fa­mous ex­am­ples of this came about 10 years ago when Rugby League was rocked by a salarycap scan­dal at the Bull­dogs. This wasn’t ex­posed, as it should have been, by a full-time footy re­porter. Rather, by two won­der­ful old-school re­porters Kate Mc­clymont and Anne Davies. What started as sto­ries about prop­erty de­vel­op­ment ended with the team be­ing stripped of all their points and re­ceiv­ing a hefty fine. We need more of these gen­uine out­siders in the Aus­tralian me­dia. Who aren’t afraid of the buffer, who don’t ob­sess about their stand­ing in the press gallery in Can­berra, or play the ac­cess game with busi­ness lead­ers or celebri­ties. From our end, when trust has never been lower in the me­dia, we – the me­dia – need to be fear­less to help re­store some faith in our pro­fes­sion. So, if you are in the busi­ness, my ad­vice would be to break free of the pack and re­mem­ber, while the me­dia com­pa­nies pay your wage, we only owe one group true loy­alty: the peo­ple who turn to us to know what’s re­ally go­ing on. Paul Murray LIVE, Mon­day-thurs­days airs at 9pm AEST on SKY NEWS LIVE

THE ANCHOR ON PAUL MURRAY LIVE IS CON­CERNED JOURNALISTS ARE NOT GET­TING WHAT THEY NEED TO WRITE TH E STORY YOU, TH E READER, DESERVE. DOES HE HAVE A POINT?

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